The film shows a Soviet submarine running aground off the coast of a small
Cape Cod island, and the impact this has on the island’s residents. It is mostly comedic, with several familiar faces in it. This was the film that made newcomer Alan Arkin a star. He received his first Oscar nomination for his performance. (And 46 years later he was nominated for the fourth time for Argo.) He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy for TRAC2.
The film is based on the novel The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley. You may be thinking, “Benchley?
? Any connection to Peter Benchley who wrote Jaws?” If so, then you are good at making connections. Nathaniel Benchley is Peter Benchley’s father. Massachusetts
The title of the movie is a play on words from the famous, but fictional, cry of “the British are coming, the British are coming” by Paul Revere during the start of the American Revolutionary War. Actually,
Revere was captured by British troops before he got past . It was Dr. Samuel Prescott, who just happened to be leaving a lady friend’s Lexington Lexington house at 1:00 AM (awful late for conversation, don’t you think?), who ran into Revere and then warned and other towns. A man named William Dawes also warned towns along a different route to Concord Lexington, although he didn’t reach , either. Concord was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere – “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”. If only “Prescott” and “Dawes” rhymed with more words then maybe history would remember them as well as Revere. (But I digress.) Revere
In TRAC2 the submarine runs aground because the Captain (Theodore Bikel) wants to get a good look at
. The Captain decides to send a landing party ashore with the mission to get a tugboat to pull the sub off of the sandbar it is stuck on. The name of the Cape Cod island is America and there is some humor from the Soviets trying to figure out how to pronounce it. (Although the island is fictional, there is a town named Gloucester Gloucester in , and for the record, it is pronounced “gloss-ter”.) Massachusetts
The landing party is led by Lt. Rozanov (Alan Arkin). They come upon the house of Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner) and his wife Elspeth (Eva Marie Saint). The Soviets first try to convince the Whittakers that they are Norwegians. Maybe it’s the accent, or maybe it’s the all black outfits that the Soviets are dressed in, but the Whittakers are suspicious. The landing party ends up taking the Whittakers and their two children hostage, although not for any sinister purposes. They just want to know what kind of military and/or police presence there is on the island, and where they can find a boat.
Rozanov decides to take most of his men with him to fulfill their mission. He leaves a young sailor, Alexei Kolchin (John Philip Law), behind to guard the family. They are soon joined by the family’s gorgeous teenage babysitter, Alison Palmer (Andrea Dromm). It’s not long before Alexei and Alison are working on their own solution to a Cold War détente.
The Soviets take the Whittaker’s car, but it runs out of gas. They steal another, but that person calls the cops and all her neighbors. Soon Chief Mattocks (Brian Keith) and his inept deputy Norman Jones (Jonathan Winters) are trying to temper a misguided vigilante search for the Soviets. Many more things happen, many misunderstandings occur, and many more laughs are had by the viewer. I won’t spoil the climax, even though it is probably the most talked about scene in the film. Suffice it to say that it is a very satisfactory one for everyone.
While it may be hard for the latest generation that has reach adulthood to understand why the Americans and Soviets in this film were so scared of each other, and didn’t just talk to each other, the rest of the people who see it will get it. This is a fun movie, and it has a good message in it that still applies today. If this sounds interesting to you then I recommend you give this film a try.
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
DVD Instant Video Paperback
DVD Instant Video Paperback